Sunday, December 02, 2007

Is Romney Working with Log Cabin Republicans to Remove Stories from Web?

What's happened to the 2002 Bay Windows story on Mitt Romney and his "gay" Log Cabin Republican supporters? (Bay Windows is the Boston GLBT newspaper.) It used to be readily available on the web. (And Bay Windows used to have a neat section called "The Romney Files" -- which they've also removed, along with their archives search page! Hmm...) Now, a search for "Gay GOP touts Romney as good for the community" pulls up a blank page... But we've saved it! And we're reprinting it here for all you Republican primary voters.

Bay Windows
Gay GOP touts Romney as good for the community
By Laura Kiritsy, 3/28/2002

Mitt Romney rode his wild success organizing this year's Winter Olympics in Salt Lake City, Utah, all the way back to Massachusetts and right onto center stage as the Republican candidate for governor. But the Olympic gold dust has begun to settle -- Democrats have already taken aim at his inconsistent stance on abortion and criticized his positions on a host of other issues, from fixing the state's budget crisis to managing the Big Dig. And now that gay-friendly Governor Jane Swift has bowed out of the running, gay voters may also be wondering: Is Mitt good for gays?

Good enough, said several gay Republicans who spoke with Bay Windows, including Abner Mason, Swift's deputy chief of staff. "I am absolutely confident that as governor he would continue the commitment to gay equality that was started with [former Republican Governor William] Weld and continued with [former Republican Governor Paul] Cellucci and Swift," said Mason. "He will equal, if not better, the record of Weld, Cellucci and Swift." Mason recently met with Romney in his capacity as Swift's chief policy adviser, and said they discussed ``a wide range of policy issues including gay rights." He declined to disclose the details of that conversation.

Lt. Governor candidate Patrick Guerriero, Swift's gay former running mate, agreed that Romney would be appealing to gay voters. Guerriero noted that Romney did receive support from gay Republicans in his failed 1994 bid for U.S. Senate and currently has gay Republican Jon Spampinato, who actively worked to recruit Romney in the governor's race, on his campaign staff. "The reality is there's a difference between 1994 and now," Guerriero told Bay Windows. "The issues are much more talked about. All the candidates will be called upon to clearly state their positions on gay issues" and the next few months will be a defining period, said Guerriero. "I think you'll see that his policies and stands are going to be rooted in the party of Abraham Lincoln."

Romney got his first chance to prove himself when, just days after announcing his candidacy in the driveway of his Belmont home, it was revealed that his wife, son and daughter-in-law had signed a petition to put the anti-gay "Protection of Marriage" constitutional amendment on the statewide ballot in 2004. Romney campaign spokesman Eric Fehrnstrom told Bay Windows that the family members signed the amendment petition -- which would not only ban gay marriage, but all legal protections for same-sex couples in Massachusetts -- without realizing how restrictive the amendment actually is. "They read the bold print," said Fehrnstrom. "They did not read the fine print."

Romney was unaware his family members had signed the amendment petition, said Fehrnstrom, and he does not support the "Protection of Marriage" amendment. "He is opposed to gay marriage, but in the case of the 'defense of marriage' amendment Mitt believes it goes too far in that it would outlaw domestic partnership for non-traditional couples. That is something he is not prepared to accept." Asked whether Romney supported the domestic-partnership legislation -- which would provide health insurance benefits to the same-sex partners of state employees and give municipalities the choice to do the same -- currently pending before the state legislature's House Ways and Means Committee, Fehrnstrom said he was unsure. In the week since announcing his candidacy, he added, Romney has been involved in "an intense series of issues briefings" intended to bring him up to speed on issues currently facing Massachusetts citizens.

"I think it's very good that Mitt Romney came out and said he opposes the ballot initiative because it goes too far and is extreme," said Gary Daffin, co-chair of the Massachusetts Gay and Lesbian Political Caucus, a non-partisan organization. But he also adds, "I think we have some more work to do with Mitt Romney" on gay issues.

While Romney's stance against gay marriage -- which is consistent with his position during his '94 senate campaign -- is typical of many political candidates of both major parties, Daffin may have a point. Romney has had to fend off accusations from his fellow members of the Mormon Church that he called gays "perverse" in 1993, and has repeatedly denied the charge. In 1994 he expressed support for "don't ask, don't tell," the U.S. military's ban on openly gay soldiers.

He did, however, pledge to support the federal Employment Non-Discrimination Act, which would ban job discrimination based on sexual orientation, and other civil rights protections for gays in the areas of housing and credit. He also promised to bring the initiatives begun in Massachusetts to protect gay and lesbian youth to the federal level.

But what struck the gay GOP during that campaign, according to Massachusetts Log Cabin Republicans (LCR), was Romney's accessibility to and comfort within the local gay community. Romney and his Republican primary opponent, John Lakian, attended an LCR-sponsored candidate's forum during the campaign, where they both competitively vied for the organization's endorsement -- which Romney eventually won. During the course of his campaign, LCR member and former president Mark Goshko told Bay Windows, Romney held several meetings with group members and at least two LCR members joined his staff. Though gay Republicans were by no means running Romney's campaign, "it was really a multi-level involvement," Goshko stated. "Our people were very involved officially and outside of [the campaign]." Given that past level of involvement, said Goshko, "I have no reason to think that things won't develop similarly this time." Goshko and LCR's current president Chris Ferguson, said they have spoken with Romney campaign advisers and are hoping to schedule a sit-down meeting in the coming weeks.

Romney has also come under suspicion for his Mormon beliefs, given the church's leadership on anti-gay efforts in the U.S., and its generally conservative reputation. His opponents have attempted to use his religion to paint him as conservative on social issues, a characterization both Fehrnstrom and Ferguson said is unfair. "There's a rush to characterize Mitt Romney as a right-wing social conservative. I don't think that's entirely fair," said Ferguson. "There may be a lot of reasons at the end of the day not to support him or not to like him, but he should have the opportunity to define for himself what his positions are and not to have people mischaracterize him," he said.